Dante Aligheiri, the famous Italian poet, is without any debate, one of the most passionate poets of all time who believed in and lived by the true meaning of Love through his exceptional writings . His works are still considered as the Canvases of Human Mind, sparkling and expressing love through words. Though, the love of his own life remained unrequited and that agony fueled his journey of writing as a neverhealed wound, creating some masterpieces of Romantic Literature.
Early Life of Dante
Born in Florence, Italy around 1265, Dante was the son of Alighiero di Bellincione Alighieri and Bella di Abati, and he grew up among Florentine aristocracy. Scholars surmise that he received formal instruction in grammar, language, and philosophy at one of the Franciscan schools in the city.
Dante’s Love : Beatrice Portinari
Dante first met Beatrice Portinari, daughter of Folco Portinari, when he was only nine years old and he claimed to have fallen in love with her “at first sight”, apparently without even talking with her. He would later write about his instant love for her in “Vita Nuova”, saying “Behold, a deity stronger than I; who coming, shall rule over me.”
When he was 12, however, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Manetto Donati, member of the powerful Donati family. Contracting marriages for children at such an early age was quite common and involved a formal ceremony, including contracts signed before a notary. Dante claimed to have seen Beatrice again frequently after he turned 18, exchanging greetings with her in the streets of Florence, though he never knew her well.
Beatrice’s Death: Presence in Dante’s work
Beatrice died in 1290 at age twenty four. Beatrice probably never had any idea of the depth of his passion for her, yet she was to become one of literature’s most famous figures.
After Beatrice’s death, Dante withdrew into intense study and began composing poems dedicated to her memory. The collection of these poems, along with others he had previously written in his journal in awe of Beatrice, became La Vita Nuova, a prose work interlaced with lyrics.
Dante describes his meetings with her, praises her beauty and goodness, describes his own intense reactions to her kindness or lack thereof, tells of events in both their lives, and explains the nature of his feelings for her. She represents an idealized love, the kind of love that transcends physicality. Alighieri included her in both La Vita Nuova and Divine Comedy. She is his salvation; the “gentilissima” (most kind) and “benedetta”(blessed). It is Beatrice who serves as his guide in Heaven in Divine Comedy. La Vita Nuova also relates of the day when Dante was informed of her death and contains several anguished poems written after that event. In the final chapter, Dante vows to write nothing further of Beatrice until he writes “concerning her what hath not before been written of any woman.”
Analysis of Dante’s Love and Literature
The promise is fulfilled in the epic poem The Divine Comedy, which he composed many years later. In that poem, he expresses his exalted and spiritual love for Beatrice, who is his intercessor in the Inferno, his purpose in traveling through Purgatorio, and his guide through Paradiso.
Beatrice addresses Dante, the author and a character himself, for the first time in Canto 2 of Dante’s “Inferno”: she descends into Limbo and prays that the poet Virgil can rescue Dante. She then reappears in Canto 30 of Purgatorio, when Virgil disappears.
At first sight of her in Purgatorio, he is as overwhelmed as he was at the age of nine and is dazzled by her presence throughout the journey until she ascends again to her place in heaven, the point closest to God that he is allowed to reach.
This expression of sublimated and spiritualized love ends with Dante’s total absorption into the divine.
Their last meeting is set among the blessed in Heaven at the end of their journey into the afterlife.
Dante’s love for Beatrice may have been idealized and unattainable, but at the core of that love is admiration, goodness, and respect. That’s a type of love that we don’t see much of in the media of today’s world. We prize the scintillating and love has become synonymous with physical lust.Dante’s love transcends the physical. It is a love of the heart and the intellect. She represented the ideal of beauty and grace, but was also a real woman.
Beatrice appeared to Dante as the woman/angel that guides him through Paradise, but also remained a real woman who made his heart beat in the streets of Florence.